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Billy Joel Band's rocking reunion after 25 years

Doug Stegmeyer's sister Sue, far left, and mother

Doug Stegmeyer's sister Sue, far left, and mother Peg, with Billy Joel Band members Russell Javors, Liberty DeVitto and Richie Cannata, accept their induction into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame Gala, Oct. 23, 2014 at The Paramount in Huntington. Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

Richie Cannata made a slight slip in his acceptance speech for his induction into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame Friday morning.

When The Billy Joel Band’s saxophonist thanked the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, drummer Liberty DeVitto jokingly pointed out the misstep.

Without missing a beat, Cannata said, “Right. That’s next.”

After seeing him, DeVitto, and guitarist Russell Javors -- performing together for the first time in 25 years to mark their induction, along with the late Doug Stegmeyer -- Cannata may be right.

Their four-song set, with Billy Joel Tribute Band’s David Clark filling in for The Piano Man on vocals and keyboards, allowed each of them to show their distinctive parts that helped make Joel’s songs from that period sound unique.

Cannata was thrilling on “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” even playing both a saxophone and a clarinet himself, and took his solo in “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” following Joel’s classic intro, “All right, Rico!”

Javors’ chugging guitar line on “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” and the roar of “You May Be Right” brought back memories of the great “Glass Houses” album.

And DeVitto’s powerful drumming throughout the set, delivered with his trademark flair, drew screams from the longtime fans who stuck around at The Paramount for the nearly five-hour ceremony. The Billy Joel Band performance followed the inductions of rapper Kurtis Blow, record label exec Clive Davis, concert promoter Ron Delsener, singer-actress Debbie Gibson, songwriter Gerry Goffin, and producer Steve Thompson.

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Joel was unable to attend the ceremony due to a previous commitment, but sent a letter to the Hall of Fame, read by LIMHoF vice chairman Jim Faith.

“These musicians conveyed the intensity and the spirit of their own life experiences in that album -- for the rest of the world to hear and appreciate,” Joel wrote. “I'm very proud to have worked with them on that record, as well as the many other recording projects we did together. They truly deserve this award from the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.”

Peggy Stegmeyer, mother of the late Doug Stegmeyer, recalled “the magic” she heard when she saw the band first perform at her house. “We’re thinking of my son tonight,” she said, drawing a standing ovation.

The other members of The Billy Joel Band also paid tribute to Stegmeyer, even bringing out Stegmeyer’s bass to be used in the songs. “When Doug died he took a piece of us with him,” DeVitto said.

In their acceptance speeches, The Billy Joel Band, in a way, made their cases for why their musical contributions merit further honors -- including that other big induction.

“Billy didn’t make us great,” DeVitto said. “It was greatness that Billy saw in us.”

Javors said, “As lucky as we were to play with Billy Joel, that’s how lucky he was to play with us."


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